Best know for his electric fusion work, guitarist and composer Al Di Meola, leading an acoustic group he calls World Sinfonia, has been exploring his interest in tango, in general, and his friendship with New Tango master Astor Piazzolla, in particular, for nearly two decades now. In “La Melodia. Live in Milano,” Di Meola leads a revamped World Sinfonia featuring Fausto Beccalossi on accordion and vocals, Peo Alfonsi on guitar, and old collaborator Gumbi Ortiz on cajón [a wooden box].
In the program, Di Meola & Co. revisit Piazzolla (”Café 1930,” “Double Concerto”), and explores Ennio Morricone (”Cinema Paradiso,” which is quickly becoming a jazz standard), the late Sardinian singer Andrea Parodi (”Umbras”), as well as four originals.
Be it because of the presence of the undramatic accordion (as opposed to the bandoneón, the melancholy sounding, button squeezebox that is the quintessential instrument in tango), the pared down arrangements or the flamenco flair that seeps through here and there, the music in :La Melodia” has a bright (at time harsh) tone. (Di Meola fans looking to be wowed by dazzling bursts of speed won’t be disappointed.)
But be it because of the players or the approach, the music, as performed by this World Sinfonia, also has lost some of its richness and subtlety. Then again, Di Meola believes that “although the tango was developed in Argentina it was born in the region of Italy where my parents are from, Napoli. (Naples)” With all due respect, that’s like saying that jazz is African music.\
Like jazz, tango is a fusion of many elements, which, in tango’s case, coalesced in Buenos Aires. One of those elements, no doubt, is the Neapolitan song. Is Di Meola’s artistic prerogative to reinterpret this in his Neapolitan and fusion-tinged version of tango. It certainly comes with a bright flash that is all his own.